Plot: Brokenwood Mysteries introduces us to Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea), who is assigned to a small town to look into the current Senior Sergeant at that locale. His predecessor was involved in a suspicious and ultimately botched murder investigation, so in addition to the usual duties in the post, Shepherd has to be aware of any other potential misdeeds. He works alongside Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland), who isn’t pleased about Shepherd’s arrival, especially since he is looking into her former boss’ actions. Not to mention Sims’ distaste for Shepherd’s taste in music and his odd habits, such as holding one sided conversations with murder victims. At the same time, Shepherd has his own trials and tribulations as he acclimates to life in a smaller, slower town than he is used to. But when Shepherd is moved to Brokenwood permanently, can the two somehow put aside their differences and make sure justice is served?
Entertainment Value: The Brokenwood Mysteries is in a crowded genre, but is it able to stand out from the crowd? The concept blends a fish out water tale with the reluctant opposites story, but it all somehow works out quite well. The series presents each episode as a feature length story, so its like a movie series more than a standard show. This first series has four full length mysteries on tap, each with solid depth and a well crafted investigation. These first episodes include the arrival of Shepherd and the start of his partnership with Sims, so there’s a good amount of character development and exposition about their pasts. This ensures that even as we explore new mysteries with each new episode, larger arcs are being built and that is great news. An episode is able to tell us a full narrative about the case at hand, but also develop the leads and put the framework in place for the bigger picture, no simple task.
The strength of the leads is a prime reason this show is so solid, as Neill Rea and Fern Sutherland are terrific in these roles. Rea brings the quirks of Shepherd to life without making him annoying or forced, while Sutherland is able to play off Rea’s base well. The two have good chemistry and the writing allows them to butt heads to great effect, while also believably working as a cohesive pair. Not an easy feat, but The Brokenwood Mysteries manages to pull it off. Nic Sampson and Christina Serban Ionda also provide solid work here. I had fun with this first set of cases and appreciated how much was put into each episode, with an interesting main investigation and some nice groundwork for the ongoing series. Neither side of the narrative felt rushed or neglected, so this is some skilled writing and production work. This first series is a great start for The Brokenwood Mysteries and fans of detective or mystery shows should find a lot to appreciate with these episodes.